Last month, I reviewed what is, for my money, one of the best communications resources out there: Crucial Conversations. I promised to share one of my favourite insights from the book in my next post, and here it is.

The authors tell us that the first thing to do in any tough conversation is to establish two elements:2-ladies-1425415-639x852

  • safety
  • shared purpose

This means that it’s important to make the person or people we’re talking to understand:

  1. we are not out to get them
  2. we want the same things as they do, at least to some degree.

This purpose and safety have to be maintained throughout the conversation. If you ever feel like the other person no longer feels safe, or no longer shares your goal for having the conversation, you must go back to those issues and re-establish purpose and safety before you can productively continue.

For example: if you want to talk to someone about consistently missing deadlines, you stand a much better chance of being heard if you start by telling them:

  • you appreciate the overall quality of their work, you have a lot of respect for them, that you know they are doing the best they can (safety)
  • you know they want to get the work done, you believe they care about the success of the organization as much as you do, you think they value the relationships they have with their coworkers (purpose)

By defusing any impression they might have about being attacked, disrespected, or mistreated, you open up their ears and their hearts to what you have to discuss. By connecting with them over something you both value, you motivate them to hear you out and engage in a solutions-focused conversation.

Purpose and safety also lubricate group settings. A room full of people who feel safe and who are on board with the purpose of the gathering/meeting/event are far more likely to pay attention to others and to engage in an authentic, energetic and productive way.

I hope this tip helps you improve the success rate of your conversations soon. If it does, why not pick up a copy of Crucial Conversations, so you can come to the table with a full toolkit for negotiating those tricky situations?